During migration, birds substantially increase their metabolic rate and burn fats as fuel and yet somehow avoid succumbing to overwhelming oxidative damage. The physiological means by which vertebrates such as migrating birds can counteract an increased production of reactive species (RS) are rather limited: they can upregulate their endogenous antioxidant system and/or consume dietary antioxidants (prophylactically or therapeutically). Thus, birds can alter different components of their antioxidant system to respond to the demands of long-duration flights, but much remains to be discovered about the complexities of RS production and antioxidant protection throughout migration. Here, we use bird migration as an example to discuss how RS are produced during endurance exercise and how the complex antioxidant system can protect against cellular damage caused by RS. Understanding how a bird's antioxidant system responds during migration can lend insights into how antioxidants protect birds during other life-history stages when metabolic rate may be high, and how antioxidants protect other vertebrates from oxidative damage during endurance exercise.
The authors declare no competing or financial interests.
Conceptualization: S.M., C.C.M.; Writing - Original draft preparation: C.C.M; Writing - review and editing: S.M., C.C.M.; Visualization: S.M., C.C.M.; Funding acquisition: S.M.; Resources: S.M.; Supervision: S.M.
During fieldwork and the writing of this review, we were supported by the National Science Foundation (IOS-0748349) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (RIAES-538748) and a University of Rhode Island Graduate School Fellowship.
- © 2016. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd